The gluteus medius is an easily overlooked muscle. Overlapping with the larger gluteus maximus muscle, the medius makes up the upper and side part of your butt.
The gluteus medius is the muscle responsible for abducting the leg (moving it away) from your body.
Taking the time to stretch out this muscle comes with many benefits, including loosening up tight hips.
Tight hips can limit your range of motion and even lead to chronic back pain.
By utilizing these gluteus medius stretches that double as hip openers, you’ll be showing your glutes (and hips!) some love.
It’s important to warm up your muscles before stretching them, especially if they’re tight. A stretching session can ask a lot of your muscles, like any dynamic exercise.
You may also find it easier to go deeper in some of the stretches.
You can engage in some light cardio with repetitive movements:
- jumping jacks
Another idea is to stretch soon after taking a hot shower or bath.
It’s never a good idea to stretch while your muscles are “cold.” By warming up first, it helps prevent against injury or strain.
Start with this simple stretch to get things going. Here’s how to do it:
- Sit on the ground cross-legged, with your left foot tucked into your right thigh. Your right leg would be in front of your left shin.
- With your arms outstretched, gently lean your torso forward over your crossed legs.
- Hold the stretch for 30 seconds.
- Repeat the stretch with your right foot tucked into your left thigh.
If you’d like to deepen the stretch, lower your body toward your legs even more. You can also stretch your arms out farther.
To make this stretch a little easier, don’t lower down as far. Or use a block to comfortably rest your hands on.
For a deeper stretch in the groin, sit your legs in a butterfly position.
This involves sitting with the soles of your feet pressed together and your knees open on either side, with your outer thighs reaching toward the ground.
Similar to Pigeon Pose, which is often recommended to engage the gluteus medius in stretching, a Z-sit takes out a lot of the discomfort people can experience in Pigeon Pose, but is still a great hip opener.
Here’s how to do it:
- Begin by sitting comfortably on the ground.
- Bring your left knee to a 90-degree position in front of your body (as much as your body allows).
- Do the same with your right leg, toward the back of your body.
- You can sit upright in this pose or lean your torso forward toward your front leg.
- Hold the pose for 30 seconds, and then repeat on the other side.
For this pose, take advantage of your breath to move deeper into the stretch.
If you feel comfortable with a more advanced option, you can always transition into Pigeon Pose.
There are so many variations to this stretch, making it a perfect go-to for this muscle. Here’s how to do it:
- Begin seated in an upright position with your spine neutral.
- Cross your left leg over your right. Rest one hand on your knee and the other on your ankle.
- Lean your torso forward to a position that’s comfortable.
- Hold this position for 5 breaths.
- Release your leg back to the starting position, and repeat on the other side.
Remember to relax your muscles as you stretch. You might not be aware that you’re tensing them.
You can do this exercise in the supine position (lying down). That would be a great time to use a strap around your bent or raised leg to assist you in the stretch.
You can also make the pose easier by placing your foot on a wall. When doing so, shimmy as comfortably forward to the wall as you can, until your hips are directly over your knees.
If you want to challenge your balance, try standing. Bring your legs into the figure 4 position, and then dip your knees down as if you’re sitting in an invisible chair.
This move will also stretch out your upper body. Here’s how to do it:
- Using a wall for balance, stand with one side of your body to a wall.
- Cross your leg farthest from the wall in front of the other.
- Place one hand on the wall and the other on your hip. Then lean your upper body away from the wall, and push your hip toward the wall.
- Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
Care for your glutes by getting a massage or using a foam roller to massage the muscles in this area.
To target your gluteus medius with a foam roller, rotate your lower body slightly to the side and upper part of your glute while sitting on the foam roller.
If you don’t have a foam roller, you can use a tennis or lacrosse ball.
Taking the time to stretch out the gluteus medius can help relieve pain in your:
- lower back
When the glutes aren’t activated due to prolonged inactivity or being overworked, other areas may take on the glutes’ job of stabilizing the hips.
Since tight hips can make certain yoga poses difficult, this will also help you in your yoga practice.
You use your glutes for pretty much everything: walking, running, and more. This can easily lead to hip tightness.
These stretches make a great addition to any cooldown. In addition to stretching out the gluteus medius, they also help loosen tight hips. This results in better range of motion and can reduce chronic back pain.
It may also help make certain yoga poses easier.
Just remember, don’t stretch your body too hard too fast. Doing so could lead to injury.